By Jill Wagner
Halloween is profound. Since Forest Park is the cemetery hub, it naturally has a transcendental feel all year round, but something special happens near Halloween. Gravestones pop up on every block and spirits fly through trees.
Leading us into the holiday weekend, Forest Park's business community opens their doors with Casket Races and coffee, trick-or-treating along Madison Street, and an evening pub crawl for the grown-ups. There is no place quite like this small town, and this holiday is our charming jewel.
This is our annual festival where the supernatural spirit world mixes with the human world and children don special costumes and practice sociability. The ritual includes walking up to neighborhood homes, ringing a doorbell, and asking every for a "trick or treat." It is custom for every household to reward children, who are following the socially prescribed boundaries, with a piece of candy, to which children reply, "thank you."
House by house, doors that are usually closed and locked, are opened, and a shared experience with strangers or friends takes place. Person by person, a small exchange of spirit collectively makes a very special social experience for everyone.
The mystique is not just about treats; it is also about breaking social norms, trickery and nuisances. Decorations of graves, ghosts and enchantment fill yards as, once a year, adults who seem to adore predictability, conformity and rules, have a chance to explore danger, death, and the unknown. Wholeheartedly, we embrace misfortune, gore, and mystery.
This celebration of community and comradery includes annual discussions about the acceptable age of trick-or-treaters, as teens in their bewitching age seem to find pleasure in causing adult anxiety with tomfoolery.
In Forest Park we have decided that trick-or-treating hours are from 3 to 7:30 p.m., creating the illusion that there is a 4½-hour window to collect candy. Children soon learn that this is a trick, as most doors are unanswered before 5 p.m. Although it is generally accepted that the start time varies, the end of doorbell ringing is much more strictly enforced, as adults regain security and control over the evening.
Although our village ordinance states that we are required to keep our grass under 10 inches, refrain from noises that disturb the peace between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. and abstain from watering our lawn between noon and 6 p.m., perhaps on Halloween, with nuisance rules bent, one could get away with such deviance as mowing their lawn after 7 p.m. (but before 7:30) all in good fun.
The weekend before Halloween, I will celebrate with other casket builders at the morning race, have lunch, watch the trick-or-treaters and be among the costumed adults hopping from pub to pub, all in the spirit of community and spirit. Then on Halloween I look forward to seeing the mobs of kids and groups of friends changing the atmosphere of our streets and blocks in an extraordinary way.